Northrop Grumman has started work on Australia’s first MQ-4C Triton unmanned maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.
Australia is buying a total of three high altitude long endurance (HALE) aircraft, placing orders for the first two units in 2019 and the third one in 2020.
In a ceremony broadcast to a virtual audience, speakers from the Australian government, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), US Congress, US Navy and Northrop Grumman emphasized the significance of this event.
“The MQ-4C Triton will be a very important ISR capability for Australia,” said Air Commodore Terry van Haren, the RAAF’s air attaché to the Australian embassy. “It is ideally suited for Australian operating conditions, given its high altitude, long endurance, and impressive sensor suite.”
The Triton RPAS and Australia’s P-8A Poseidon will operate in a complementary way to deliver a maritime patrol and response capability. Triton and Poseidon will also provide support to national security response activities, both domestically and abroad.
Australia’s MQ-4C builds on elements of the Global Hawk UAS, with reinforcements to the airframe and wing. It also has de-icing and lightning protection systems, which allow it to descend through cloud layers and gain a closer view of ships and other targets at sea.
Capt. Dan Mackin, the US Navy’s Triton program director, applauded the continued progress of the program, stating, “With much of our team working remotely, geographically dispersed, and across many time zones, I am so impressed with the continued productivity I have seen and the great work being done. Our partnership near and far remains strong as we prepare to deliver the first Triton aircraft to Australia in 2023.”